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© LAURENT GILLIERON/epa/Corbis
"Ever since I was a little kid and first heard Jimmy Reed's Honey, Don't Let Me Go, the blues has been in my blood," says Billy Gibbons, ZZ Top's master of Lone Star-sized, down-and-dirty guitar licks. "The blues is a mighty long road. Or it could be a river, one that twists and turns and flows into a sea of limitless musical potential. The blues is life itself.
"Picking my favorite blues songs is a rather daunting challenge. I could go on for days, and we'd be listening to 78 rpm recordings that were made in the 1920s on discs of shellac. But the key word here is 'albums,' so that narrows the field. It brings us to the late 1940s when Columbia introduced a new format that was played at 33 1/3 rpms.
“Interestingly enough, some of the first blues albums or LPs were really collections or compilations of an artist’s singles. The record companies could take both A and B sides, put five or six of them together and call it an album. Oftentimes, an artist didn’t even know this was being done till after the fact.
Whether the styles originated from Chicago, the Mississippi Delta, Texas, or Great Britain - Billy Gibbons has absorbed them all, and each has played an important role in forming what has become his own recognizable sound. “I've definitely been an avid student of the genre my whole life," he says. "So in naming what I consider to be my favorite blues albums of all time, I pinpointed the artist first, and truthfully, I’d be happy to listen to just about anything they recorded. But then I took out the microscope and said, ‘All right, let’s find the key album.' I think we’ve got some good ones here.”